I decided to read this book because I’d heard multiple times that it was good and I have resolved to do the smart thing and keep informed about what’s good and bad in my genre. Yay for me and my step up in maturity level.
The premise is one of those dystopian “Why didn’t I think of that?” ideas. In this future, every 16-year-old undergoes an operation to make them gorgeous–and exactly the same as everybody else over 16. The main character, Tally, is looking forward to her transformation until she makes a friend with different ideas.
The writing is clear, a nice pane of glass, I suppose. I understand the appeal of the adventure sequence. A city girl can’t embark along on a quest of “evil” through dangerous wilderness without evoking a certain amount of thrill. I love the themes and the way the author uses them.
For me, however, the book was unsatisfying. The characters were not well fleshed-out. Their beliefs are strong and show through their actions, but the writing isn’t intimate for this alone to let them to come to life. I needed more little things, likes and dislikes, quirky memories, elements of crazy awesome reality.
Other parts of the book are told and not shown. For example, on a certain return trip, Westerfield deprives the audience of the development of the love story, saying “Tally can’t remember.” This annoyed me.
It also bothered me that the book was clean enough for a children’s shelf. Not a curse word, a speck of blood, or a raging hormone in it. They’re 16. Get real.
Kids looking for a fun read will like this book. Tally’s adventures are fun enough to show up in readers’ dreams. Those looking for high-level writing or strong emotional connection with characters, however, will be disappointed.